I just spent a couple of minutes looking for the telephone number of someone who sent me an email. No big deal, except that if it is your client’s time spent looking for your number, it is a big deal. If you do something that wastes your client’s time, it suggests you have no idea how wasted second and minutes can quickly add up. Don’t be the cause of the addition. So here are a couple of quick tips:
- Include your phone number on every email.
- Think about your use of email real estate. If the case is Smith v. ABC, Inc. and you’re corresponding with an inhouse lawyer at ABC, he or she will know the case involves the company. Think this doesn’t make a difference? Look at a client’s email in-box on a mobile device. If you have to open an email to find out whether it is important, you’ve just wasted time. Time that adds up.
- After the name of the matter, let the reader know if it is time sensitive. In other words, is your matter so important they have to look right then instead of focusing on other matters? Or can your matter wait? For example, I use INFORMATIONAL, TIME SENSITIVE or NOT TIME SENSITIVE, and I reserved URGENT and ACTION REQUIRED for something that is important enough to “stop what you are doing and pay attention.”
- Are you asking the reader to do something? Specify that in the first line of the email. For example: Smith: URGENT: Signature required, or URGENT: Approval required.
- Learn the importance of BLUF—Bottom Line Up Front. Give your client the choice to read the detail or ignore it. Sometimes, a client just doesn’t care at that moment and you should not force them to read through the detail to get to the result.
Good email etiquette is easy. It just requires you to put yourself in your client’s shoes for a minute.